Yoga is More than a Practice

 In Audience Participation, Why Are We Here?, Yoga Sutras

If you have attended any of my gentle yoga classes over the last few weeks, you

The eight limbs of yoga teach us that yoga extends beyond a physical practice.

know we have been discussing the eight limbs of yoga as laid out by The Yoga Sutras of PatanjaliThe Yoga Sutras is a “go-to-text” for yogis as it defines a path that each of us can follow in order to achieve yoga or union with the divine.  In my class we have already discussed the first four limbs – Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama – understanding how we can realistically use these limbs within our own practice as well as everyday life.

The first limb, Yamas, are restraints; principles to live by so as not to cause suffering for others.  In Sanskrit yama means abstinence.  There are five yamas:

  • Not harming
  • Being truthful
  • Not stealing
  • Not grasping
  • Not wasting energy

How can we use the yamas within our own practice?  Don’t steal from yourself by underestimating your talent within a pose, while at the same time don’t overdo it and cause yourself harm by pushing yourself too far.  Attempt to find your own balance.

The second limb, Niyamas, are freedoms that balance the yamas; points that increase happiness within us.  In Sanskrit niyama means observance.  There are five niyamas:

  • Cleanliness
  • Contentment
  • Discipline
  • Self-study
  • Surrender

How can we use the niyamas within our own practice?  Try to be content in your practice and meet yourself where you are at this moment.  This extends to the environment where you choose to practice.  Learn to appreciate the warmth of the studio or the personalities of those you practice with.

The third limb, Asana, is the physical practice of yoga and largely the most recognized part of yoga.  In Sanskrit asana means staying or abiding.  Practicing asanas can help you become more grounded in your body thereby creating a healthier relationship with it.

How can we use asana off the mat?  An asana is any position you can hold with ease, creating a stillness within yourself.  For me, reading to my children, talking with my husband on “date night”, calling my mother and walking my dog, are just a few my favorite everyday asanas.  While some days these activities may seem more comfortable than others, they always leave me with a sense of stillness provided I take the conscious time to recognize them.

The fourth limb, Pranyama, is the recognition of breath within any moment.  In Sanskrit pranayama means breath control.  Breath is an integral part of yoga as we use it in so many different ways depending on what we are hoping to achieve.

How can we use pranayama within our own practice?  Take the time to notice your breath at the beginning, middle and end of your practice; how does it change?  Maybe notice where your breath deepens rising to the challenge of a difficult pose, whereas it becomes softer as you relax into your favorite restorative pose.

When I think of The Yoga Sutras I love how each limb makes me contemplate aspects of my life off the mat; reminding me that yoga is more than a practice but a way of life.  Attempting to be honest with others; continually reflecting on pieces I read and how they relate to me personally; finding my balance of tolerable discomfort – pushing myself outside of my comfort zone but not so far as to cause residual pain; and, catching myself alone with my breath when I am least expecting it, are just a few examples.

Maybe the same is true for you?  I would love to hear from each of you, how do you use The Sutras in your every day?

~The divine in me salutes the divine in you, Namaste~

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